Anti-nepotism policies were adopted by two of the largest local government units on Tuesday.
The Grant County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved two resolutions bringing the county into compliance with a new state law.
House Enrolled Act 1005 restricts elected officials or government employees from directly supervising or hiring their relatives and contracts from being made if a contractor is a relative of an elected official.
It requires that policies be adopted by July 1 or else the Department of Local Government Finance will not certify budgets or approve additional appropriations.
The commissioners were presented with a “discussion draft” of a policy by County Attorney Kyle Persinger.
“These drafts now are at the state minimum requirements,” he said. “You have the ability to make them more stringent.”
Persinger said the commissioners would have to make decisions on three different situations under the law:
- Whether to allow relatives of newly elected officials to continue to work for the county or require them to resign their positions.
- Whether to allow a spouse of the county sheriff to be employed as prison matron.
- Whether to allow a former coroner to work in the corner’s office for a relative who is the sitting coroner.
The commissioners spent the most time discussing the first situation.
Glickfield said he could see both sides of the issue. He said an election could lose family members their jobs, but also the side that having too many family members in a department to be a bad idea.
Burton was more stringent on the issue.
“I don’t see how it’s ever a good idea for a relative to be employed by an elected official, no matter what,” he said. “Even though that person, that relative may be well qualified, I just don’t think that’s a good policy.”
Bardsley wondered whether it would be fair to people that were employed by the county before their relatives took office.
“If someone is under employ by the county and then that relative runs for that elected position we’re asking them to lose their gainful employment?” he said.
“They should realize that up front if their relative is going to run,” Burton said. “They should take that into consideration.”
“What if one relative hates the other one and wants to get them fired?” said Clerk Mark Florence to laughter in the audience.
Florence also asked whether the law would apply to political appointments. He said his daughter was appointed by a political party to be a polling location inspector.
Persinger said the law allowed two exemptions for precinct election officers and volunteer firefighters.
Burton said the law included a “grandfather clause” to ensure it would not affect relatives who were hired before July 1. Without this clause, he said would be “unfair” to people who entered employment when working under a relative was not unlawful or illegal.
Bardsley said the grandfather clause addressed his objections and Glickfield moved to approve the resolution under the more restrictive language for previously employed relatives of elected officials, prison matrons and county coroners.
This was unanimously approved by the commissioners, as was a separate resolution requiring disclosure of contracts with relatives of elected officials.
The Gas City Council approved an anti-nepotism policy, resolution 6-2012, at its Tuesday evening session. Council members and City Attorney Joe Certain were less than enthused.
“As always happens, there’s a problem in one place, so (the state legislature) enacts legislation that puts a burden on all of us,” Certain said.
Councilman Mike Planck said he objects to the policy because it creates scenarios in which the most qualified candidate for a position will be eliminated through no fault of his or her own.
“You’re discriminating against somebody who might be fully capable of doing the job because he’s your nephew,” Planck said. “Isn’t that discriminatory?”
Mayor Larry Leach said he’s opposed to the policy philosophically and dreads the additional paperwork that will be required to clear state oversight. Gas City Council President Larry Terwillegar said the city had two situations that fall under the grandfather clause. Those will need to be reported annually.
Nonetheless, Leach expects the policy’s impact to be minimal.
“It’s almost there is no such thing as home rule anymore. The state legislature and governor think they know how to run local government at the county, city and town level, but they’ve already got more headaches in Indianapolis than they can handle,” Leach said. “I don’t expect this will have much of an effect, though.”
The city of Marion will hold a special meeting at 6 p.m. June 12 to discuss its anti-nepotism policy. It will be up for a vote on June 19.